the dyrt
THE BEST CAMPING IN
Illinois
601 Reviews 403 Campgrounds

There’s a lot more to Illinois than the great city of Chicago. Along with this exciting urban hub there are many natural areas where locals and residents alike enjoy getting outside. With 141 parks it’s no wonder the DNR created the motto, “State Parks, Great Parks” in 2013. This phrase is the title of their initiative to continue improvements on local natural areas with upgraded campgrounds and additional staff to cater to the more than 44 million yearly visitors looking for hiking and camping in Illinois.

People from all over the state – and even outside the country – take the short 1.5-hour drive from Chicago to Starved Rock State Park, where they can hike 13 miles of trails offering elevation gains on wooded pathways along the Illinois River. The 18 canyons serve as great places to spot waterfalls after a rain and families love ending the day with s’mores around the bonfire at the nearby Starved Rock State Park campsites.

Those looking to learn about the state’s heritage while camping in Illinois may head farther south to Lincoln Trail Homestead State Park & Memorial. This 162-acre park is 12 miles southwest of Decatur near Harristown, IL, and features the land where Abraham Lincoln first resided in the state. If you visit be sure to check out the memorials commemorating this important president.

People who want to mountain bike in this Midwestern state will enjoy heading to Palos Park, a forest preserve known for its excellent biking, hiking and equestrian trails that cover over 50 miles of terrain. When it comes to camping in Illinois, this locale offers beautiful facilities at Camp Bullfrog Lake where you can put up a tent next to a lake and hike short or long loops that end up back at your campsite.

If you want to check out the beautiful Lake Michigan drive to Illinois Beach State Park to spend time in the water along the 6.5 miles of sandy shoreline. The park is 4,160 acres offering ample opportunities for hiking, watersports, picnicking, fishing and camping. With The Dyrt, you can be sure to find the best camping in Illinois during your stay in the Prairie State.

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Recent Reviews in Illinois
Ranger Review of Rom Outdoors Vertical Limits Ski Pants at Lake Glendale

Located in the Shawnee National Forest, this sweet little campground has it all. Wooded, semi private sites (at least for tents), full hook ups for RV’s, great campground hosts, CCC buildings, new shower house, amazing trails at Lake Glendale and other nearby areas. Even on a rainy afternoon, there were plenty of campers at Lake Glendale, which resulted in us not getting a preferred site (46) but a perfectly good site instead (49). The sites were spotless and well maintained, with some having space under the trees for tents and some having just gravel pads. Our site was close to, but not on, the lake with easy access via trails. There were a few sites with good lake views, with the majority of those in the RV loop. The trail around the lake is about 3 miles; a nice hike that really gives you a good look at the park. On the hike you pass two large shelters built by the CCC as well as the boat ramp, damn, and swimming beach. For more wild hiking, go down the road 15 minutes to Bell Smith Recreation area (which has its own campground) and hike to the natural rock bridge (and climb the steel ladder), springs, or Devils Backbone.

Rom Outdoors Vertical Limits Ski Pant

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, from time to time I get gear to test and review. On this trip I tested out Rom Outdoors Vertical Ski Pant. In the midwest we rarely get snow before Thanksgiving, and our little ski hill usually doesn’t open until close to Christmas (when they have been able to make enough snow for skiing), so I felt really challenged with this product. However, with a full day of cold rain and overnight temps in the low 30’s, I gave it a real go. A few weeks later we had a sizable snow (for early November and the St Louis area) and was able to further test these out. Here’s what I found: The pants are really waterproof! I didn’t get wet at all even after setting up and taking down a tent in the rain, hiking through tall grass in the rain, and later, hiking several miles in the snow. At first I thought the pants were a bit short and almost exchanged them for a larger size. But then I realized that they are designed with length in mind for wearing ski boots. And I could adjust them a bit by adjusting the suspenders. Overall I was very happy with the ski pants, if only we could have real snow and real ski hills.

Pro’s:

  • Waterproofing is solid
  • Tons of storage pockets that have double closures (zippers and velcro) to protect your stuff; side pockets are deep and large
  • Cuff zippers to help with putting on/taking off ski boots and to vent
  • Zippered vents on insides of the thigh area
  • Adjustable, removable elastic suspenders
  • Fleece lining is super warm and removable if too warm
  • Adjustable waist with velcro as well as belt loops

Cons:

  • Unisex sizing (women are shaped different from men!); no tall sizes for slim builds
  • Only comes in one color, black
  • No reflective areas
  • The adjustable waist is only adjustable by two inches overall
Well maintained. Lots of wildlife,deer,turkey.

Greattach hiking trails. 12 miles of Mountain Bike trails

Spacious campsites, beautiful fall color, on the edge of a cornfield

Quiet midweek in tent camping area except for heavy equipment in field nearby. Large campground with open space and playground for kids. Short walk to beautiful lake.

Basic, friendly hosts, clean, lots of RV's

We camped midweek in October. The hosts were very friendly and accommodating. The showers and bathrooms were clean. It was cold! We were in a camper van. We should have brought firewood, as firewood was only available at an exorbitant price for very few pieces. We were told that the campgrounds filled up on the weekends with fishermen.

Corps of Engineers

Great campground well maintained. Expertly managed

Very peaceful camping,fishing, and kayaking

NNice lake for fishing and kayaking. Excellent restaurant on site also

Great place for rvs and tents alike

Lots of room, easy maneuvering for trailers/rvs, electric and water at each site; on site manager (at least in the summer) bery pretty lake

Lots of trees, shades, great campsites, friendly hosts and clean facilities

This campground qualifies for the senior pass for reduced rates. It is directly on Carlyle Lake, ,the largest lake in Illinois. It has activities for children on the weekends. The campsites have sewer and water on some sites, as well as other sites with electricity available. There are a lot of mature trees in the campground that provides plenty of shade int he summer. Many of the sites are blacktopped and large RV's will fit on the sites. There is a beach very near the campground that is within walking distance. There are also pools located near to the campground that can be used by the public.

No shade, no shower

No Shade, and no showers. This is a relatively new campground not too far (about an hour drive) from Chicago. We looked at this place when we were looking for a spot to camp for a local wedding. But, no shade in the Illinois heat and no shower made it unacceptable. There were paved roads and the sites looked large and level. There was water and electric And a dump stations at the entrance/exit.

Cook County Forest Preserve

It’s probably the closest camping to downtown Chicago. About 5 years in existence. Clean facilities with a few trails. Camp Sullivan is used a lot by scouting groups. There are lots of trees and it is somewhat woodsy. The best thing to me is Jack Gibbons’s, a restaurant directly across the street.

Shady and quiet

This is a great state park campground. They have electric sites, and water is available but you need to fill your tank before setting up camp. Sites are flat and most are pull through. Giant City has great hiking and wildlife viewing.

Great family campground

Nice campground, right on Crab Orchard Lake. Large sites, lots of room. We camped with several other families and everyone enjoyed this park.

Lots of room

This is not a typical KOA. The spaces were large and roomy. Showers and bathroom were very nice, too. We didn’t use any of the other amenities because we were just passing through.

Outstanding state campground

We spent 8 days in the campground. The host was excellent and clearly there to make the stay pleasant. Each site has electricity and access to water. Some have more.

All the hiking in the park is some of the best in Illinois. The visitors center has a lot of great information. The lodge has some of the best fried chicken anywhere and is very reasonable. Saturday night the dining hall was packed because of the all you can eat venue not to mention the excellent service

This is a park that would be better labeled as an unforgettable experience.

Good and bad

There are some good sites, and others not so good. Early Reservations needed. This is a nice state park, mostly for fishing, We spent 5 nights here last Memorial Day weekend, and were lucky to get a spot, even if it wasn’t one of the good ones. Showers and bathroom were clean. The sites were large and well spaced. Would go back

Quiet location & horses

Stayed here 3 nights in July to attend a wedding nearby. Small campground with limited amenities. Grass sites. Electric and water. pay showers! Small lake and beach for swimming. Large corral for horses. Quiet and relaxed atmosphere.

Love Galena

Very nice campground. Plenty of tress . The sites are VERY close together but we were next to very nice people, if you like space you won't like this. The bathrooms are nice , clean we showered in our trailer but the showers looked decent. You can't beat the location!!! We love Galena, we didn't do the shops this trip just two days of hiking, BEAUTIFUL views. We would go back! nice pool (closed right now too cold) small park for kids. People very nice.

Cave in Rock State Park

Very beautiful campground and park. Very spacious sites, and there was hardly anyone there , so it seemed like we had the campground to ourselves. So peaceful. The shower house was very nice and clean and had flush toilets. However the other restrooms were not so nice (pit toilets with spiders and mosquitoes everywhere). The campground host was really nice. Also note that there is no place to buy ice or firewood nearby. We crossed the ferry and went to Marion Kentucky and found some there. The park and ferry is really cool. There is a lodge that has a nice restaurant and a bar. If you want to buy alcohol the nearest place is Elizabethtown where they have a liquor store. Overall this is a wonderful campground and we will return someday!

Lake-Le-Aqua-Na

Very friendly people! Campsites a little close to others and sound traveled. Trails were way nice and the scenery was beautiful-lots of deer!

Best view in illinois

We did not camp here though I wish we did. We did a lot of hiking all around Shawnee but this is by far favorite spot in Illinois!

Quaint Campground

This is a small quaint campground that allows you to get a feel for the state park. There are plenty of walking trails, rec areas and fishing available around the park which makes it for the perfect weekend getaway for the family.

Fires are allowed and you are able to drive to your campsite.

clean close to home

We like this campground because its close to home and its clean/large campsites. But there aren't any showers and you need to pay with cash or check. No credit cards. This year the prices have also gone up for people that live outside the park district - bummer. Hard to pay that much when you can't shower or clean up. Depending on where you camp there are pit toilets and also a real nice flush toilet bathroom. There is a lake for fishing and some trails.

Camping Near Chicago

My wife and I have stayed at this park several times in the past two years. The lake is the main attraction. The park doesn't offer much in the way of hiking or additional activities other than hanging out by the water or your site.

The swimming portion of the beach is rather narrow, and doesn't offer much in terms of space to lounge. The rest of the shoreline is covered in rocks to prevent erosion.

The sites don't offer much privacy. The camping areas are rather open and exposed. There are few trees dividing the spaces, so the camping experience can feel a bit more communal than most.

If you are biking in, expect a lot of sidelong glances. This is camper territory. No hiker/biker sites. The showers are free, however.

Clean Camp

Although it has many permanent campers, if you can get a site, it is clean and well ran.

Archway RV Park

Great place to stop for the night! Clean, reasonable and the staff/owners were great!!! Would stay again! Easy on and off to 64 and 57!!! Sonic, Subway and Tractor Supply Co a short walk away! Building a Japanese Steak House across the street. Oh, and there is an ice dispenser machine on the premises.

Great hiking! This area has so much to offer, a weekend won’t do!

This wasn’t our first choice for a campground but Oak Point was full and sites were open here! I’m so glad that was the case as this definitely turned out to be an awesome campground. The sites are flat and open, but most are still shaded by a y’all tree canopy. The lodge and restaurant are a great way to escape the summer heat for a few hours! The Trillium Trail in the Park has beautiful views and rock formations. Get ice cream and walk the Secret Garden in Makanda. Lake Glendale is close by for swimming and kayak rentals. Of course you have to hike to the Garden of the Gods, but our favorite was the Little Grand Canyon. Both require some level of experience hiking and good hiking shoes/boots.

Simple, River fun

Small and hidden right on the Illinois River. Received a free night of camping with a whole day of kayaking which is absolutely recommended. Not much to do here except camp and kayak but I will be going back.

Relaxing, Flexible

My boyfriend and I stayed a few days on the weekend at the campground here 3 different times this past Summer. Each time was just as enjoyable as the last. The staff are super friendly & welcoming & the beach is always a plus for us. However, I only recommend you visit the beach in mid July or later because the water is unbearably cold when Summer is just starting out (if you plan to swim). Loved the different trails & ponds as well!

Expensive for what you get

The campgrounds were a little run down they have two pools one of them was green and there mini golf was over grown with weeds. It's almost twice as much as other campgrounds in the area. We probably won't go back because of that. Our site was fine enough room. Had a cute little store.

Small but so nice

Small campground, but very nice place!!! Tons of pine tress you really feel like you're camping. Peer very nice as are full timers. Small beac/ swimming pond and another fishing pond. Bathroom clean Great little place will return